NTSPP – 323 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 323

NTSPP – 323

A Puzzle by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Phibs has set barred puzzles in the Enigmatic Variations (as Ranunculus) and Inquisitor series (as Triton), as well as the Magpie magazine (as Phylax).  His next EV puzzle will be published tomorrow.  We are privileged to be the first to publish one of his blocked puzzles – don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as you might expect with that pedigree.  See how long it takes you to work out which clue is my favourite!

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:


I hadn’t met a setter called Phibs before and so  I assumed that I wouldn’t be this week’s NTSPP reviewer, but a quick read of BD’s introduction soon made it clear that I was the lucky person who would get to enjoy this very nice, if a bit too anagram-heavy, crossword,  twice over.

A number of people have tried to persuade me to solve barred puzzles over the years  but I’m sticking with   blocked puzzles so I do hope Phibs  continues to set them as, judging by all the comments, everyone enjoyed this one as much as I did.


9a           Nobleman given award for piercing subject (7)
EARLOBE    A nobleman given an Order of the British Empire (award)


10a         Queen turning to Will when wanting bit of palace put on sale (7)
RELEASE    The misleading capital W held me up a bit when I was parsing this one but it soon became clear that we need a reversal (turning) of the Queen’s regnal cipher followed by a verb meaning to be the will or choice (of something) without the letter P at the front (wanting ‘bit’ of Palace).

11a         Stuffy highlander ultimately boring liberated lassie (7)
AIRLESS   The ultimate letter of highlander ‘boring’ an anagram (liberated) of LASSIE.

12a         One with tenancy cut short, rent not up to date (7)
ANCIENT   I (one) goes with an anagram (rent) of almost all (cut short) of TENANCy.

13a         Treat liberally, in fancy English inn? (9)
ENTERTAIN    Treat has the honour of being both the definition and part of the anagram fodder in this clue.   An anagram (fancy) of TREAT E (English) and INN

15a         Note about consuming uncooked beef (5)
BRAWN   Beef here meaning muscular strength.    A reversal (about)of the two-letter abbreviated Latin instruction meaning to note (well) goes about a synonym for uncooked.


16a         Young venture to drink while embracing loose woman (5-2)
START-UP   A verb meaning to drink embracing a loose woman.

19a         Went ahead on stomach? (7)
CRAWLED   Part of a verb meaning at the front (went ahead) goes after an animal’s stomach.


20a         Keeps record of   tips (5)
LISTS    Makes a written record of or tips to one side.

21a         Seat in Obama’s office, wingless with back of cowhide (9)
RESIDENCE    Seat in the sense of a country abode –   Remove the ‘wings’ from the office held by Barack Obama and add the ‘back’ of cowhidE.

25a         International council replacing Greek with loud cough (7)
CONFESS    Cough here is a slang term meaning to admit to a crime –   Replace the abbreviation for Greek which appears in the middle of an international council and replace with the musical abbreviation meaning ‘loud’.

26a         Bass, say, with gin shot results in staggering (7)
ROCKING    Here the capital B for Bass is needed as it is part of the name of an island in the Firth of Forth – although I bet I wasn’t the only one initially trying to put a fish before an anagram (shot) of GIN..

28a         Musician used to performing on own stool is wobbling about (7)
SOLOIST    An anagram (wobbling about) of STOOL IS.


29a         I removed trainee’s pants? That’s serious! (7)
EARNEST    Remove the I from TRAINEE and an anagram (pants) of the remaining letters will provide the solution.


1d           Carpet beater being wielded recklessly (6)
BERATE    An anagram (being wielded recklessly) of BEATER

2d           Doctor Cameron, for instance, reversing effect of fungal disease (3,3)
DRY ROT   The abbreviation for Doctor and  a reversal  of the informal way we might refer to the party led by David Cameron

3d           Produced   weary   wave (4)
BORE   Three definitions –  the first two verbs with different meanings, the third a noun.

4d           She and I dance in centre of Nagano? (6)
GEISHA    Yet another clue where the definition is part of the anagram – ‘dance’ tells us to rearrange SHE I and the ‘centre’ of NaGano


5d           Beer lovers upset to receive a case of German brandy (8)
ARMAGNAC     If you solved Petitjean’s Toughie 1573 you should remember the ‘bitter zealots’ and know to reverse (upset In a down clue) the group of beer lovers responsible for us all being able to enjoy “proper”  beer and then  insert (to receive) a case of (or the outside letters of) GermaN.


6d           It’s on wall at school – “B.D.’s got crush on Miss Piggy” (10)
BLACKBOARD   BD contains (got crush on) a verb meaning to miss or be without and a male ‘piggy’

blackboard 003

7d           Sport that’s largely corrupt completely divided by Coe? (8)
BASEBALL     A word meaning corrupt without its last letter (largely) and an adjective meaning completely, divided by the abbreviated Christian name of Lord Coe.

8d           Intended fools around, getting caught in act (8)
DESTINED    A reversal (around) of some fools caught in, or inserted into,  an act.

14d         Tories’ rise could conceivably make you spit (10)
ROTISSERIE   An anagram (could conceivably make) of TORIES RISE

16d         ‘Fish about’ is minute breach of syntax (8)
SOLECISM  A non-standard grammatical usage –   A fish that Mr CS and I enjoyed for lunch shortly before I solved this crossword, a Latin abbreviation meaning about, IS (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Minute.   I do know that it doesn’t help me telling you we had the fish for lunch [with parsley sauce, Jersey Royals (from Jersey)  and purple sprouting broccoli (from our garden)] but I thought it was too much of a coincidence not to mention it.

17d         Be nasty about securing a little loan with zero interest (8)
ABSENTLY   An anagram (about) of BE NASTY ‘securing’ a little, the first letter, of Loan.

18d         A priest, a drunk and a freeloader (8)
PARASITE   An anagram (drunk) of A PRIEST A

22d         Furious setter is involved in row (6)
STREET    I did spend  a Gnoment or two trying to put an I or ME (setter) into some sort of row!  but here we have yet another anagram (furious) of SETTER.

23d         Sounds from hooters I introduced (6)
NOISES    Well there had to be  one chestnut!  I from the clue introduced into some parts of the body informally known as hooters  (and no, definitely not those parts for which the Americans use this as a slang term).

24d         Henry piling on the pounds, unsettling wife a bit? (6)
EIGHTH   This fraction  is obtained by removing (unsettling) W (wife) from a word meaning heaviness (piling on the pounds) and adding the  abbreviation for the SI Unit of Inductance (Henry) at the end.


27d         Worry comes in part from scaremongering (4)
CARE    A nice lurker to finish with – the solution is hidden in part of sCAREmongering



82 comments on “NTSPP – 323

  1. Excellent stuff with many lovely clues (though perhaps a few too many anagrams) – thanks Phibs. Top clues for me were 1a, 19a, 5d and the one that I imagine is BD’s favourite.

    1. The original draft had one fewer anagram, but I thought, rightly or wrongly, that many solvers would struggle with the original version:

      29a Serious art collector? (7)

          1. now thou come’st to mention it, verily it maketh sense i’faith Gazza – many thanks

  2. thanks Phibs; most enjoyable. I liked (and struggled with) the triple def at 3d and very much liked the easier-but-no-less-pleasing surface of 28.
    Nice weekend, everyone

  3. Good enjoyable puzzle.

    I liked the &lit 4d; is 5d BD’s favourite? Obviously, Gazza thinks not unless I have misread his comment. I also liked 7d among others.

      1. Yes, I realised that just after I sent my comment, but I’m sure he enjoyed 5d as well!

        1. P.S. I’m not sure that I am parsing 6d correctly; is ‘got crush on’ a container?

  4. I have been really looking forward to this and goodness I wasn’t disappointed. Loved it.

    No arguments from me or my pencil re anagrams.

    Lots of highlights. The trainee’s pants being taken off in 29a, the hooters in 23a, corrupt sport and Coe in 7d, 19a just because. Liked all of it. And yes 6d…great stuff.

    Favourite is the sublime 18d, A priest, a drunk and a freeloader…what a clue!

    Many thanks to Phibs, think you might deserve the odd Maryland cookie :wink: Brilliant. Thanks in advance to whoever blogs this.

    Still trying to parse 5d. In my defence it’s been snowing..not sure how that works but I’m standing by it.

    1. 5d is a belter; not sure if you were asking for help; hence I won’t blurt out the parsing

    2. Not sure if you’re from the UK, but if not you need to know about a beer lover’s organisation in the UK to parse 5d.

        1. At this moment in time Hanni wishes she was a Maldives lass. I’m beginning to think the sun is a mythical object. :yes:

          re 5d..Doh! Thanks. How did I miss that? Like it though.

  5. I was a bit worried after reading BD’s introduction, but this all flowed reasonably smoothly. Yes, a lot of anagrams but I delighted in the indicators. I enjoyed the all-in-ones ( 4d and 13a). I quite enjoyed 24 down which seems to work at several levels, Henry being slang for an eighth of cocaine. I liked 14d, but the star clue has to be 6d.

    Well done Phibs, a brilliant blocked puzzle – it must be hard to reduce difficulty from barred puzzles, but you have to of course with fewer checkers.

      1. It was one of my first ones in – interesting how we all solve differently but end up in the same place.

    1. Unlike baerchen and Dutch, I didn’t struggle with the triple definition. Mostly because I didn’t spot it until it was mentioned. Clever.

      Edit. His Cluedo EV is worth a look for those that like barred puzzles. Really clever. Tomorrow should be good too.

  6. If I had read BD’s introduction I might have given this a miss – “Enigmatic Variations” – far too difficult for me.

    So a blind tasting of Phibs was most enjoyable!

    Loved the surface readings and didn’t notice that there were too many anagrams – must have done some of them without recourse to pencil and paper.

    Agree with Hanni about 18d – A priest, a drunk and a freeloader – sublime!

  7. What a good crossword – I really enjoyed it – found some of it quite difficult.
    I’m now stuck with the last couple – both in the bottom right corner – have ideas but can’t see why/if they’re right.
    I’m also having trouble seeing why several of my other answers are right – maybe they’re wrong – 6d? Any offers of help gratefully received or this will drive me mad.
    There were quite a lot of anagrams, I suppose, but I like them so no complaints – I got some of them having failed to realise they were anagrams until afterwards.
    When I first saw the grid I was on the lookout for a Nina but unless I’m missing something I don’t think there is one – as always when I remember to think about it.
    I liked 19 and 25a and too many of the down clues to mention all of them. I think my favourite was either 5 or 18d.
    With thanks to Phibs and in advance to whoever does the review.

    1. 6d – B and D surround (get a crush on) a 4-letter word for “miss” and then a 4-letter word for a pig – neither of the 4-letter words are obscene.

      1. Thanks so much – how could I not see that – all I could think of was the Muppets and now I am one! :roll:

  8. Still stick on 5D but B. D.’s favourite should be 6D after the Hog roast butties at the Macc. S&B

    Regards ,

    D. D.

  9. Very enjoyable and easier than I initially thought it would be, helped no doubt by the proliferation of anagrams.

    My favourite, as it produced the widest grin, was 6d.

    Great stuff, Phibs, many thanks for the entertainment.

    1. speaking of puzzles with a healthy smattering of partial anagrams, the solver with time on his/her hands on Thursday might like to tune in to my next Indy puzzle (Knut #9210)

      ‘scuse the plug there, BD

      1. Not at all – and I’ve got another one of your puzzles due to appear here soon.

        But don’t miss out on next week’s very special NTSPP – my lips are sealed!

  10. Hi everyone, and thanks for all your comments – I’m very pleased (by that I probably mean ‘relieved’!) to see that the puzzle was generally enjoyed and didn’t prove unduly troublesome. Entertainment is my primary objective…actually (along with provoking the occasional groan) it’s my only objective!

    For anyone who usually takes one look at the EV and rapidly looks elsewhere (and some EVs are indeed fiendish), do have a go at ‘Treasure Island’ tomorrow – if you solved today’s puzzle, I don’t think you’ll find it at all scary, and a bottle of rum should prove a purely optional accessory…

    1. Hi Phibs. As I said above, I really enjoyed this, certainly worth the wait. Looking forward to EV and your next next blocked puzzle…you did say you’d started one!

      Nice avatar btw. ;-)

      1. Would someone called ‘Phibs’ lie to you? There is indeed another blocked puzzle in preparation (working title: ‘Thinking Laterally’), but a spot of ‘anagram pruning’ is going to take place before it is allowed to escape from captivity!

        1. Hehe. Definitely not.

          Hmm “Thinking Laterally”..intriguing. Very much looking forward to it. :yes:

          Dark orange chocolate (thanks Jean-Luc) and a glass of rum ready for tomorrow.

          Still haven’t worked out why “Phibs”?

            1. I am!! Trust me that was the first thing I started looking at. It’s worrying how much I now know about Bufonidae and Alelopus. :-)

          1. Mmm – I love chocolate. Jean-Luc is so kind. I bet you enjoyed those, Hanni!

            P.S. Hi Phibs, and many thanks for dropping in. We all do so much appreciate it when the setter takes the trouble to do so.


    2. Thanks Phibs,

      I enjoyed the puzzle, particulary 18d. I am taking the PP to lunch next week I might just mention it.

      I have only completed E.V. 4 times in 20 years but I wiil download today’s and have a go .

      Regards, D. D.

    3. Phibs, I took your advice and had a go at the “Treasure Island ” EV this morning – I’ve filled the grid but now for the difficult bit … reading and correctly interpreting the instructions.

      Pleased to see that Fifteensquared reveal all for EV puzzles – although it will be a long wait.

      Thanks to Phibs (aka Ranunculus)

      1. …if you’ve filled the grid I’m sure it won’t be long before you find the ‘treasure’ – you’ll know when you’ve successfully completed each ‘step’ and also when you’ve located the booty.

  11. Wow – that was good. Not easy, but well worth the effort. 29a was my first one in, then I inched across sideways and finally upwards. Found that, even when checkers were in place, I invariably had to tease out all the wordplay rather than use my default setting of reverse parsing. OK, Pommers and Gazza – I know that’s the way I’m supposed to do it in the first place!

    Not sure I can nominate an overall favourite, but I really liked 9,19,20&25a plus 2,6,18&24d. Plus virtually all of the remainder!

    Many thanks, Phibs – my first try at one of your puzzles, I’ll be back for more.

  12. Luckily I remembered the acronym in 5d from a recent puzzle so parsing that was was not a problem. Most of it flowed smoothly but there were several gaps, 4d, 20a (which I initially had wrong as I thought that ‘keeps record’ meant ‘stays in front’ and was delaying 17d) and what the last letter of 24d could be. Eventually all sorted. Excellent fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Phibs.

  13. I am still struggling in the SW corner. Hopefully, by the time the review comes up…..

    1. By the way, we had snow last week and now it’s a glorious 76F and tomorrow should be just as nice. Gardening weather at last!

  14. Back from a delicious meal with plenty of wine, so apologies if I write any of the following upside down or back to front.

    Like StanXYZ I was wary of this after reading the introduction – but I needn’t have worried one bit. A quality puzzle with plenty of humour. Among many picks, I liked the ones that BD would like (5d and 6d) – very cleverly constructed with impeccable and amusing surfaces. Actually, there was a great deal of that around, and I am finding it completely impossible to name a favourite, or even to make a sensibly-sized shortlist. So all I will do is thank Phibbs and say that I am very much looking forward to your next one.

    I’m not sure I quite nailed all the parsing – but will have another look when sober :).

  15. I cannot believe ti but I have finished this masterpiece and got all of the answers bar one correct. Thanks to all concerned.

  16. many thanks CS for the review – brilliant pic for 6d! I had missed the island in 26a and the stomach in 19a (thinking it was a weak CD).

    I took 4d and 13a to be all-in-ones rather than any kind of double duty – I did check that Nagano was in Japan!

    1. Yes, that was the intention with 4d and 13a – my Ximenean ‘upbringing’ wouldn’t allow me to have part of the wordplay doing double duty.

      Thanks to crypticsue for the review, and for capturing so marvellously the picture that I had in mind when writing the clue for 6d!

      Jane – ‘Will’ would be ‘Please’ in the sense of ‘choose’, as in ‘Pass me the M&S Chocolate Gingers if you will’ / ‘Pass me the M&S Chocolate Gingers if you please’

      Denis D – Clearly when speaking to the PP you should make sure that he understands that the priest, the drunk and the freeloader in the clue are three completely different people…

      1. Hi Phibs,

        I understand that now that I’ve consulted with the BRB but I would be far more likely to say ‘please will you pass me the M&S Chocolate Gingers’ – or just make a grab for them!
        BTW – I was looking at your comment to Hanni regarding ‘Phibs’. I thought of ‘amphibians’ removed the ‘Phibs’ and was left with ‘am Ian’. Thought I was really clever until Hanni assured me that your first name isn’t Ian. Ah well – it was a nice try.

        1. You are spot on, Jane – given that all my various pseudonyms have a connection with frogs, toads or newts, PHIBS is just a contraction of AMPHIBIANS. Those folk who are also keen on reptiles seem to refer to their ‘fancy’ collectively as ‘reps and phibs’. But oh, if only my name had been Ian … 8-)

          And I must apologise for choosing what I now realise is a completely unrealistic example of the similar meanings of ‘will’ and ‘please’…the very idea of allowing someone else to have the chocolate gingers in the first place…! ;)

        2. Well….there is no proof whatsoever that instead of thinking of the obvious, I spent rather a long time thinking that Phibs was the beginning of the name of a frog, toad etc. :oops:

          Many thanks to CS for the excellent review and the wonderful 6d pic.

          EV ready for later.

          1. I think most of the thanks should go to Mr CS for hauling the blackboard advertising our Local Honey for Sale from its winter position right at the the back of the shed so that I could turn it upside down and use the bottom 18 inches to create the illustration for 6d.

            1. That’s fantastic! I love it. I wondered if you had managed to photoshop it somehow but it’s even better knowing it is the real deal. Well done both. :-)

              You have honey?

              1. We have six hives at the moment and Mr CS is actively clearing the ‘orchard’ so that he can fill new hives with queens he is going to propagate soon.

                All the honey produced so far has gone very quickly but if his hard work goes to plan and the bees cooperate we should have loads and loads every year n future.

                1. I’ve just heard a bad bee-keeper conference joke which I won’t share here, maybe in Derby or London

    2. Phibs, thanks for dropping in. Hope to meet you. Will you be going to either Derby or London s&b in May?

      1. I was going to ask that – you can’t beat meeting in person. I’d never heard of you before Saturday (you’re not on Best For Puzzles, and after a brief encounter with Azed some years ago I have kept well clear of barred crosswords). Do you have a web presence?

  17. Many thanks, CS and – yes – I also had a Gnoment over 22d!
    Needed to check with the BRB over the unfamiliar definition of ‘please’ in 10a but, other than that, managed all of the parsing by my little own self.
    Great pic for 6d – now all we need to know is exactly how BD does feel about Miss Piggy!

  18. Argh – having been duly inspired to try today’s EV, I can only get it via the print option on the telegraph puzzles website – and it doesn’t fit on a page (bottom row of puzzle is gone!) – any suggestions?

    1. One of the options my printer gives for size is ‘fit’ to page as opposed to actual size. Just in case yours doesn’t I’m sending you a pdf.

    2. I was surprised that my ancient printer managed to fit it all in on one A4 page.


      Buy a new printer?


  19. Had a very busy weekend but managed to find time to tackle this wonderful crossword.
    The preamble did scare me a bit but was pleasantly surprised with the level of difficulty.
    The SW corner took a while longer.
    Specially the fish as I thought about was a reversal indicator and was looking for a fish ending in S.
    Whenever I am in London, and this year was no exception, I order the whole Dover Sole with Hollandaise and steamed potatoes at Sheekey’s or The Ivy. Simply my all time favourite.
    As for the clues, the Geisha was my favourite.
    It was very nice to discover Phibs.
    Thanks to Him and to CS for the review.

  20. Back to thank Phibs again and also to thank CS for sorting out my various problem answers. I was right the first time – I was having a seriously dim day yesterday. Oh dear!

  21. Never did complete the SW corner. Shame on me in hindsight. Lovely puzzle. No favorites (though 6D made me smile). I enjoyed it all despite falling short. The comment thread today was as much fun as the puzzle itself. I do like it when the setter stops by. Thanks Phibs, and thanks CS for the review.

  22. Bit late to the party after a weekend away, but what joy! Pitched exactly right, I thought, with every clue having something to enjoy. Pure delight from start to finish. Many thanks Phibs, and apart from the entertainment value – like 6d, arf! – bravo for working in those &Lits.

  23. ok, thanks for the help and inspiration, I have managed the Treasure Island EV and I think i found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – but i’m not completely sure.

    I was very impressed with the clueing relating to the theme, can’t be easy, but some marvellous stories in each clue. Congratulations. One or two things I didn’t quite get, and it seemed to me there was the occasional bit of padding (not unlike central african) but perhaps that is excusable to remain true to the theme

    Well done

    1. Thank you kindly, and well done for completing the puzzle – without giving too much away, if you think that you have the solution then looking it up in the BRB and referring one of the definitions there back to the description of the hoard in the instructions should confirm your suspicions…

          1. I’m completely lost on the island without sustenance or rum. I’d quite like to rest under a tree…if I could find one…alas no. However I’m not giving up.

        1. …I was referring to the meaning shown in the BRB as ‘figurative; informal’ as a final ‘cross check’ (it’s not part of the puzzle as such) – but I may not have helped! If you reckon you’ve found the treasure, then I’m sure you have :)

    2. I’ve just printed this out. Should be interesting because I’ve never attempted an EV before and have no idea how they work. “Make modifications to the grid” sounds scary. But, nothing ventured…

    3. It is the convention not to talk about prize puzzles elsewhere before their closing dates even if you are the setter!

      1. oops, you’re right of course – here’s hoping this is sufficiently removed from any mainstream discussion and in the spirit of encouragement to try something new

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